retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The Verge reports that employees of Amazon-owned Whole Foods are demanding that the mother company stop enabling Big Brother-like behavior.

The story says that the employees object to Amazon’s business dealings with government contractor Palantir, which works for the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE); Amazon reportedly sells cloud computing capability to Palantir, and has had discussions about selling its facial recognition software to the company.

In a public letter posted by the group, it promises to “continue to combat the company by leaking information and attempting to undermine policies and business dealings that lead to the deportation of undocumented people and other rights abuses.

This all occurs as Bloomberg reports that “the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency is set to expand its use of facial recognition, deploying the controversial technology to screen people entering the country … CBP is looking for a private vendor to provide the technology and to move key software applications to cloud-computing services. The contract, set to start in December and extend as long as May 2025, may be worth as much as $960 million.”

The story acknowledges that “as software has improved and computing costs fallen, facial recognition has grown from science-fiction into a useful tool in recent years. A backlash has followed. San Francisco banned the technology in May, citing privacy and civil liberties concerns, and several cities are considering similar moves. Critics have called for U.S. companies working on the tech, such as Microsoft Corp., Inc. and Google, to curb its development or stop it altogether.”
KC's View:
If these folks are pissed off at Amazon now, I can only imagine how livid they’ll be if it gets that big Pentagon cloud computing contract it has been angling for. (Though it appears that political considerations - namely President Trump’s dislike of Jeff Bezos - could get in the way of that.)